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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Sep 02, 2005 1:34 pm

• coction •

Pronunciation: kahk-shên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The act of boiling. 2. Digestion.

Notes: Occasionally we enjoy exploring words that have no ostensible use in the language. (What's wrong with the words boiling and digestion?) We thought you might be interested in knowing where concoction comes from; it originally meant "boiling together with" and, later, that which has been cooked from a mixture of ingredients.

In Play: This does not mean that there are no opportunities to use this very good, if somewhat out-of-style word: "I don't think coction would clean the dirt out of these jeans." Should you tire of digestion, try something like this: "I don't think my coction is up to a spicy meal tonight."

Word History: Today's Good Word goes back to Latin coquere "to cook, boil". The original root was *pekw- "cook, ripen", visible today in Russian peku "I bake", which still vaguely resembles English bake itself. In Sanskrit the root held its ground: pakva in that language means "ripe". However, this root took a mighty twist upon entering Greek and Latin. In Greek, the [kw] turned into another [p] under the influence of the first [p] (assimilation). The result was peptein "to cook, digest", which we borrowed as peptic, as in peptic ulcer. In Latin just the opposite occurred: the [kw] converted the initial [p] into another [k], giving coquere, pronounced [kokwere]. Hard to believe, but true.
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Postby Flaminius » Fri Sep 02, 2005 2:42 pm

Sound shift kw --> p is not so rare even in phonological environments where no assimilative /p/ is present.

In Mycenaen Greek *gwasileos meant a director. This word appears in Classical Greek as basileus, a king. So we have gw --> b shift here.


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